Liz Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Good One!”
I don’t know what the theme is yet because I haven’t connected the dots. … Okay, I’m back from annotating my solution. I have a picture of an angel with slightly asymmetrical wings. (The degree of left/right symmetry in the picture is impressive given that the grid has traditional rotational symmetry.) So the theme answers could all be clued [Angel] rather than just [See blurb]:
- 6d. SHOW BACKER. As in an “angel” who funds a Broadway show. “Show backer” sounds not particularly in-the-language to me, but I am famously disconnected from Broadway so possibly it’s en entirely familiar phrase to the rest of you.
- 8d. MICHELANGELO SCULPTURE. He has a famous angel sculpture? Philistine here is unaware.
- 14d. AEROSMITH SONG. They have a song called “Angel”? News to me.
- 53d. GOLFER CABRERA. I had baseball’s Miguel and Melky Cabrera and crosswords’ Joe Cabrera obstructing any memory of Angel Cabrera’s first name.
- 70d. TREE TOPPER. My Christmas tree gets a star on top, not an angel.
Astonishing how four of these five theme answers dropped themselves firmly outside of my wheelhouse. Usually I am more in synch with Liz’s wavelength, but I was a mile away here. I do like how the title (“Good One!”) playfully signals an angel as well.
So the theme includes these five long answers as well as the circled letters that must be placed in alphabetical order as you proceed through the drawing. There is a little bit of clunky fill (ERST, ALERO, and TSO’S, for example) as a result of those constraints. Note: I am more forgiving of compromised fill that arises because of ambitious theme constraints than clunky fill that is there for no real reason except the puzzlemaker thought it was fine as is. But ideally, the fill’s all solid. And Liz does include lots of good stuff, too.
- 21a. [Many an early French settler in America], HUGUENOT. Why do I love this word?
- 25a. [Special seating area in an airplane], EXIT ROW.
- 27a. [With 63-Down, 1997 P.G.A. champ who captained the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team], DAVIS LOVE / III.
- 61a. [Words that precede “Born is the King …”], “NOEL, NOEL.”
- 68a. [Reproductive stock], GENE POOL.
- 92a. [Unseen scenes], OUTTAKES.
- 28d. [Beatles tune from “A Hard Day’s Night”], “IF I FELL.”
- 68d. [Tailors’ inserts], GUSSETS. I love this word too.
- 82d. [Symbolic effort in support of equal rights], TOKENISM.
New vocabulary for me: 15d. [Expulsion, as of a foreign diplomat], RENVOI. From a French verb meaning “to send back.”
Despite the abbreviation in the clue for 41a. [L.G.B.T. rights advocate], I filled in ALLY and applauded the clue’s freshness. And then it turned out the be the ACLU. Which I also like.
3.75 stars from me.
Henry Hook’s CRooked crossword, “You Da Man” — pannonica’s write-up
In a nutshell: original phrases are augmented with “MAN” via replacement with surnames suffixed thus.
- 24a. [Critique of a so-so clarinetist?] YOU’RE NO GOOD, MAN (Benny Goodman; you’re no good).
- 39a. [Gregg seeks a ride?] ALLMAN THUMBS (Gregg Allman; all thumbs).
- 64a. [Nicole’s Tarzan-like intro?] “I KIDMAN, YOU NOT” (Nicole Kidman; I kid you not).
- 90a. [Morgan in a tux?] FANCY FREEMAN (Morgan Freeman; [footloose and] fancy-free).
- 106a. [Convivial musician Danny?] JOLLY OLD ELFMAN (Danny Elfman; jolly old elf (i.e., Santa Claus)). More known these days as a composer, especially of film soundtracks.
- 3d. [Violin-playing comic, basically?] YOUNG MAN AT HEART (Henny Youngman; young at heart). Thirty-nine “years young,” I suppose.
- 35d. [Paradise’s camera maker] EASTMAN OF EDEN (George Eastman; East of Eden).
- 45d. [Hugh, penalized for high-sticking?] JACKMAN IN THE BOX (Hugh Jackman; jack-in-the-box).
Entertainers: 7, non-entertainers: 1. Also, ♂: 7, ♀: 1.
- Last to fill: the crossing of 61a [Hunter’s companion, often] and 61d [Revelry god evoked at Mardi Gras], with –OCKER and –OMUS. My thought was POMUS, as that was the stage name adopted by Jerome Felder—Doc Pomus, and it seemed plausible that that was the inspiration for sobriquet. But POCKER is essentially meaningless, although hunter and pecker as a slow typist seemed promising. Alas, the O was non-negotiable as part of NOTA bene. Finally, I realized that there was an unannounced curtailment going on, from cocker spaniel to COCKER. COMUS, a son of Bacchus, is the deity in question.
- Long non-theme fill: TWO LUMPS (of sugar); GLADIOLI, SAM SPADE, ATONALLY, and DUNGEONS with the interesting clue [Oubliettes], describing a dungeon with an opening only at the top, and deriving from the French and Latin for “to forget,” as in throw them in and forget about them. >shudder<
- Favorite clue: 23a [He was alone until Friday] CRUSOE.
- More solving reportage. Took a while to parse 56a [Shakur rival] SMALLS; we’re talking rappers here—the late Tupac Shakur (1971–1996) and the late Biggie SMALLS (1972–1997). Not exactly my wheelhouse.
- Still more: starting the solve, predictably, at 1-across [Bottomless pit] I felt I was being quite clever by filling in only an S in the fourth of five squares, realizing the answer could be either ABYSS or CHASM. With the B soon plunked in, I completed it as ABYSS, only to be stymied at 5d [Cat calls?]. Sneaky Hook used the uncommon ABYSM!
The fill and clues are engagingly wide-ranging and there’s a low amount of dross. Makes for a good puzzle, even if the theme isn’t the most exciting.
Merl Reagle’s syndicated Sunday crossword, “Plus or Minus 1”
The theme answers add or subtract one letter from a familiar phrase to alter one word. There’s not much binding them together other than these two changes, the addition or subtraction of a letter. We alternate between subtracting and adding, but –E, +N, –N, +T, –L, +W, –L, +V doesn’t seem to spell anything.
- 23a. [Goat capital of America?], BUTT, MONTANA. Yes. Because when I think of the word BUTT, I think of … goats. The crossing with LEAKAGE makes me think of Olestra.
- 28a. [Poultry dish that tastes funny?], CHICKEN ALAN KING. Alan King was a comedian and actor, funnier than chicken à la king.
- 37a. [“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice!” and others?], GAGS OF NEW YORK. Gangs of New York is a movie.
- 49a. [Today’s rug special?], CARPET DIEM.
- 64a, 71a. [“Whattaya want? I’m boiling something,” for example? (continues at 71 Across)], THE POT CALLING / THE KETTLE BACK. Calling the kettle back as in summoning the kettle to return, or as in returning the kettle’s phone call?
- 87a. [Dieter’s sandwich?], LOW-CAL HERO. Local Hero is a movie as well as an established noun phrase.
- 96a. [Lord of the Dance star’s nickname after letting himself go?], MICHAEL FATLEY. Eh. See also: 127a: FATS.
- 109a, 119. [Book about the crossword centennial, 1913-2013? (continues at 119 Across)], ONE HUNDRED YEARS / OF SOLVITUDE. I saw this one elsewhere recently—perhaps in an article about/by Merl? Or perhaps others independently came up with this timely pun. Regardless, I still like it.
I solved this puzzle last night, but then decided I was too sleepy to blog. Now I don’t remember what I liked or didn’t like in the grid. Let’s take a look …
- 76a. [Actor who memorably said, “I hate spunk”], ED ASNER. Early episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, he tells Mary she’s got spunk and she looks pleased. Then he says, “I hate spunk.” Deb Amlen and I were just riffing on that recently. If you missed seeing that series, you owe it to yourself to track it down and watch it all. Breaking Bad can wait; you’re over 30 years behind on Mary!
- 98d. [Oatmeal alternative], FARINA. Second puzzle in the last week or so to clue FARINA as the grain/cereal rather than as the recently deceased actor/ex-cop Dennis Farina. I prefer the actor.
Not much else is jumping out at me. 3.66 stars from me.
Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge” — pannonica’s write-up
A typically solid and chewy themeless from this constructor. A winning combination of big-dollar long fill and artful as well as tough cluing.
What do I mean by artful? I mean clues that aren’t overt misdirections (if that’s a way to describe it), but ones that can easily lead the solver to put in a wrong answer, especially based on some existing fill. And lots of them. Moreover—and what really puts the puzzle over the top in this regard—there’s an overall sensibility, a mood, to the clues that endow the puzzle with a palpable cohesion, even if the mechanism itself isn’t obvious or tangible.
Here’s a good example: 28d [Occupational milestone] is the long CAREER MOVE. Nearby is 35d [Acted unprofessionally] cluing the crosswordy staple EMOTED, but to burnish matters there’s 34a [Take to task] BERATE sitting atop 37a [Black mark] DEMERIT. Even the abutting 39a [Sir Samuel Cunard and Sir Henry Royce] for the unrelated BARONETS nevertheless absorbs the flavor by obliquely evoking martinets, likely to BERATE and DEMERIT.
An assortment of misdirections/dopplegänger: 1a [Forest foray] HIKE/HUNT, 14a/56a [Clueless] ASEA/LOST, 45d [Far from faithless] LOYAL/GODLY, 43a [It begins today] TEE / 60a [First to be counted] EENY, 39d [Joke setting] BAR / 42d [Great joke] HOWLER/HOT ONE. And there are more.
Add into the mix interesting trivia like 19a [“The Addams Family” lion] KIT-KAT, goofy punners like 7d [How Bostonians like their eggs?] OVA and 26a [Webb address?] MA’AM, conversational answers like SCARES UP and TALKS TURKEY and NEAT AS A PIN, a full name like IRENE ADLER, et cetera …
Then top it off with a long pair like AHA MOMENTS and COME AROUND (incidentally mirroring ASEA and LOST) for the coup de grâce in addition to the oodles of material I haven’t mentioned here and you’ve got a killer, spectacular themeless crossword. Really good stuff.
One aside note: was dreading that the answer to 30d [Hoop skirts?] might be WNBA, so was relieved to find it to be NETS, although that’s a stretch too far in my opinion. Further, the only questionable crossing is 32d [Put-in place] COVE and 38a [City of northern Spain featured in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Christina Barcelona”] OVIEDO—it’s quite conceivable that a contingent of solvers might not know their continental geography, be unfamiliar with particulars of Allen’s oeuvre, and not recognize a nautical term.
Okay, fine, I’ll let myself be manipulated. 48a [Rave review] I LOVE IT. Curse you, Klahn!
Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 194” – Gareth’s review
First off, news. I’m no twit, but apparently Peter Gordon tweeted “Happy 100th b-day to the crossword! I just signed on for another year of Post Puzzlers (April 2014 to March 2015). Themeless fans: rejoice!” That’s great news, Peter Gordon and his constructors have provided consistent top quality themeless puzzles with an incredible level of polish! Thanks to you all!
I always find it difficult to approach describing themeless puzzles. I’ve made notes about a number of individual answers today, so I’m just going to present them as a list:
- This puzzle has a particularly impressive 1a: SQUAWKBOX is a great answer anywhere, but placing that at 1-across is particularly delicious!
- 4a is the rare South African gimme: both wagtails and PIPITs are common local birds belonging to the Moticillidae. I’m not sure that either are too familiar with Americans. Are they?
- I found ENDEDUPIN difficult to parse.
- ALETA was a hard name we see less of in crosswords these days. Consequently, I wasn’t confident of her name AL(E/I)(D/T)A was what I mentally filled in initially. As a kid, I loved the funnies pages, but skipped over Prince Valiant because I found the storylines hard to follow…
- I misremembered LARDLAD as LARDboy. A False gimme! A very specific piece of TV trivia that!
- Not a fan of EURASIA clued as [Home to most], even though it’s true, because it’s such an irregular designation.
- We have cunning clues for ONTRIAL, [Being heard] and [Polish stripper] (snigger) for ACETONE.
- WORLDWARZ is a very fresh answer, a gimme, but a film I have no (or indeed a negative) desire to see…
- I didn’t know that SOLOSHOTS were [Round-trippers with nobody aboard]. I Considered HOBOSHOTS initially. This also intersected 3 names I didn’t know, but I managed to eventually puzzle this corner out. Everything was inferrable! The names were US senator BYRD (okay I did know him, although I considered BURR first). Plus there were two US sports names: RAYLEWIS and DARRYL who’s either “Darryl Strawberry” or “Strawberry Darryl” – I’m not sure which is more absurd! (I checked it’s the first of the two.)
- Neither BUMBAG nor [Fanny pack, across the pond] are favoured here. We prefer(red) MOONBAG.
- >ACCOMPLI, [Done, in Dijon] was intimidating: such a long, foreign answer. It turned out to be familiar, but I didn’t know it meant that!
Crosswords can be edumacational!
4 stars. Professional grade crossword, with fun answers and also a few thorns!
Pam Amick Klawitter’s syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, “Extras”
Poor Pam(ela). She has four different bylines (with and without the Amick, with and without the -ela), so clicking on her name in the constructor tag at the bottom of the post won’t actually give you all the write-ups of her puzzles. This is likely an issue only for those of us who are blogging her puzzles here. Carry on.
The theme is fairly tight: The final word in a phrase gets an “extra S” (read the puzzle’s title with a space added) at the beginning, and the word that precedes it always ends in an S so the altered phrase, spoken aloud, sounds an awful lot like the original one:
- 23a. [Comment about paparazzi?], LOOK WHO’S STALKING. I got this one off the LOOK WH— part, grasped what the theme was, and was off to the races.
- 36a. [Momentum in Hagel’s department?], DEFENSE STEAM. I’m not quite sure what “defense team” means. The team at the Defense Department, or a football team’s defensive line?
- 54a. [Alpine fabric sample?], SWISS SWATCH.
- 77a. [Young John McEnroe?], TENNIS SCAMP. Cute.
- 95a. [Why the clown retired?], CIRCUS STRAIN.
- 112a. [What the fencer proved he was?], AS GOOD AS HIS SWORD. I thought this was going to have “cross sword” in it.
- 15d. [Forgetful night watchman?], KEYLESS SENTRY.
- 53d. [Accessories for Lansbury?], ANGELA’S SASHES.
- 93d. [21st-century conflict], IRAQ WAR.
- 78d. [Emulates Father Damien, in a 1973 movie], EXORCISES.
Not sure about the clue for MINX, 65d. [Seductress]. I don’t think of seduction when I think of MINX. I’m more in line with the American Heritage Dictionary definition: “A girl or young woman who is considered pert, flirtatious, or impudent.”
There’s rather more fill of the “meh” variety than I’d like to see. TOLE, TARE crossing ERNE, ECUA, SEMS, ARTE, AGUE … meh, I say.
25d. [Eponymous newborn score creator] clues APGAR. I was surprised when I first learned the Apgar score was named after Dr. Virginia Apgar. It’s also an acronym (a backronym): “Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration.”
100a. [Canonical hour] clues SEXT. So is the LA Times crossword drawing a line against including sexting in the puzzle?
3.66 stars. I liked the theme better than the fill, which didn’t have a lot of highlights.